Escaping the Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation

November 20, 2020
Escaping the Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation

A compelling and long-overdue exploration of theProgressive-era conservation movement, and its lasting effects onAmerican culture, politics, and contemporaryenvironmentalismThe turn of the twentieth century caught America at acrossroads, shaking the dust from a bygone era and hurtling towardthe promises of modernity. Factories, railroads, banks, and oilfields—all reshaped the American landscape and people.In the gulf between growing wealth and the ills of an urbanizingnation, the spirit of Progressivism emerged. Promising a return todemocracy and a check on concentrated wealth, Progressivesconfronted this changing relationship to the environment—not onlyin the countryside but also in dense industrial cities and leafysuburbs.Drawing on extensive work in urban history and Progressivepolitics, Benjamin Heber Johnson weaves together environmentalhistory, material culture, and politics to reveal the successes andfailures of the conservation movement and its lasting legacy. Byfollowing the efforts of a broad range of people and groups—women'sclubs, labor advocates, architects, and politicians—Johnson showshow conservation embodied the ideals of Progressivism, ultimatelybecoming one of its most important legacies.